HummusMany of our travelers experience a number of new tastes while in the Holy Land. Some they love; others, not so much.

“What is that?” is a common question that is asked while pointing to a plate of hummus (also spelled, houmous). In short, hummus is a thick paste or spread made from ground chickpeas (garbanzo beans) sesame seeds, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. It is most commonly eaten with pita bread, but can be served in other ways, too.

If you are one of our travelers who fell in love with hummus, or simply liked it enough to try it again at home, you have some options. First, you can likely find tubs of hummus in your grocer’s refrigerated foods section. Ask a stocker for help finding it. The larger your city, the more likely you are to find hummus at your grocery store. You can also try Halal (Muslim) food shops, depending on where you live.

Another option is to make it yourself. For those that want to put their kitchen skills to the test, here is a basic hummus recipe courtesy of Sar El:

Hummus (makes four or five servings)
2 1/2 cups of small chickpeas
1 scant teaspoon of baking soda or baking powder

6 heaping tablespoons of raw tahini
6 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of cumin
at least 3 1/2 cups of hot water

For the garnish:
olive oil
hot, whole cooked chickpeas
sweet paprika

Soak the chickpeas for 24 hours in a bowl of water with baking soda or baking powder. Replace the water after 12 hours but don’t add new baking soda or powder. Drain and rinse thoroughly.

Transfer the chickpeas to a big pot; pour in water so that it reaches a level that is one and a half times the height of the chickpeas in the pot. Bring to a boil; skim off the foam that forms on the top. Lower the flame; cook on a very gentle boil for 3 hours. Confirm softness by crushing one chickpea between thumb and forefinger. Drain and reserve the cooking water to use later.

Traditionally the chickpeas are crushed using a mortar and pestle, but you can also grind them in a food processor or an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Grind or mash together chickpeas, raw tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cumin. Add the chickpeas’ cooking water 1 cup at a time, while grinding, until you obtain the desired consistency.

If not eaten immediately, the hummus will thicken within a brief time. Before serving, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with cumin and sweet paprika; most importantly, enjoy it!